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 NINTENDO SWITCH FEATURE

Nintendo Switch vs New Nintendo 3DS - Is Nintendo its own worst enemy?

Family feud
Product: Nintendo Switch | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: Switch
 
The Nintendo Switch is now in shops, providing an exciting new hybrid of home console and handheld system the likes of which we haven't seem before.

At its heart, though, the Nintendo Switch is undeniably a handheld. As such, it's in the slightly uncomfortable position of rivalling Nintendo's own New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL, which have only been on the market for a little over two years.

So how do Nintendo's two current handheld platforms compare with one another?

Nintendo Switch vs New Nintendo 3DS - Design

The Nintendo Switch is a big machine alright. It's almost 8cm wider than even the New Nintendo 3DS XL, and it's just under 1cm taller. In its favour, it's a similar amount thinner than both the 3DS XL and 3DS.

Of course, all of these measurements take into account the New Nintendo 3DS range's clamshell form factor. Open them out and both occupy a taller, squarer area than the Switch. This also serves to protect those screens when in transit, whereas you'll need a case to do the same for the Switch.



The Switch is also a lot heavier than both New Nintendo 3DS systems. At 398g with both Joy-Con controllers attached, we're talking almost 70g heavier than the tubby 3DS XL.

Looks-wise, the Switch is a more elegant piece of machinery than either 3DS, but the older handheld duo are more robust, practically built machines. We'd happily chuck the 3DS into a bag and think nothing of it, but the Switch has the feeling of something more fragile.

Also, we love the New Nintendo 3DS model's interchangeable faceplates. It's the one design touch we wish Nintendo had carried over to the Switch.



Nintendo Switch vs New Nintendo 3DS - Controls

In terms of button count and basic operation, the New Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch have similar provisions. But when you get down to the details and the feel of both systems, they're quite different.

Both have left and right analogue sticks, but the Switch's are far superior. They're taller and more precise, whereas the left 3DS stick is a slider hybrid and the right 'C-stick' resembles the mouse nub on old laptops.



Similarly, the control button count sits at eight for both machines, but the 3DS aligns its four shoulder buttons awkwardly to the side of one another. The Switch stacks them like a traditional home console.

Both systems have home buttons and star/select buttons of a sort, but the Switch has an extra button for taking screenshots.

The 3DS does have one notable control win over the Switch though - a proper D-pad. On the Switch you just have another set of four unconnected buttons.



Nintendo Switch vs New Nintendo 3DS - Screen

The Nintendo 3DS has always had the weirdest screen set-up in town, and it continues to with the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL.

It has two screens, for one thing, and they are a different size and shape to one another.

The top main screen is an autostereoscopic LCD screen that's 3.9-inches big on the standard model and 4.9-inches on the XL, and 800 × 240 (400 x 240 per eye) in both cases. They also have a weird 5:3 aspect ratio. The main trick with these main displays is that they can display a 3D picture without the need for glasses.



Touch functionality is reserved for the bottom screen which is a lower resolution 320 x 240. It's 3.3-inches in size on the standard model and 4.2-inches on the XL. These are resistive touchscreens, too, which means you need to use the included stylus - or something similarly firm - to operate it, and only one contact point can be registered at a time.

By comparison, the Switch has one display that's significantly larger (6.2-inches) and significantly sharper (1280 x 720), as well as being in a standard 16:9 aspect ratio. Capacitive touchscreen technology means you can use your fingers to operate it, and you can employ up to ten fingers at a time at that.



Nintendo Switch vs New Nintendo 3DS - Power

The New Nintendo 3DS handhelds received a significant boost in performance over previous 3DS systems, but it's still as far from a powerhouse as a modern gaming system can get. Its 804 MHz ARM11 MPCore quad-core CPU, 268MHz PICA200 GPU and 256MB of RAM is a modest setup to say the least.

However, a number of customer features, those low-res displays, and the system's unusual 3D focus make it very difficult to compare the 3DS like-for-like with anything. It's a right weirdo.



The Switch has a custom Nvidia Tegra chip based on the Tegra X1 and 4 GB of fast LPDDR4 RAM. It's the kind of capable set-up we've seen in modern Android tablets and set-top-boxes before.

If we were to make crude like-for-like comparisons with established home consoles, then the 3DS is somewhere in the ballpark region of the Nintendo Gamecube (the Wii's predecessor) while the Switch is somewhere around the Xbox 360. In plain terms, the Switch hands the 3DS its clamshell posterior.



Nintendo Switch vs New Nintendo 3DS - Special features

This is where both systems really get to show off, and so is the most interesting point of comparison.

Let's start with the old-timer. We've already mentioned that the Nintendo 3DS has a glasses-free 3D screen, but it's worth reiterating how unique this feature is - and how well Nintendo has executed it.



Not only do you not need glasses with this 3D display, but there's a slider so you can alter the severity of the 3D effect. The New Nintendo 3DS even tracks your eyes, so you can move and alter the angle of the screen without messing things up.

The Switch's special features are far more tactile in nature. You can slot it into a dock and have your game instantly beamed to your TV, usually in a higher resolution. You can also remove the controllers from either side of the screen and use them as a unified joypad, or separately for local two-player games - whether on your TV or on the switch screen itself.



Nintendo Switch vs New Nintendo 3DS - Battery

The New Nintendo 3DS has a 1400 mAh lithium-ion battery, permitting a healthy 3.5 to 6 hours of play on 3DS games. The XL model has a larger 1750 mAh battery for a slightly longer 3.5 to 7 hours.

As for the Switch, you get a much larger 4310 mAh battery, but that big beautiful display and pokey processor still takes its toll. Battery life of between three and six hours falls just a little short of its handheld brethren.

Nintendo Switch vs New Nintendo 3DS - Price

You'd expect the older, less capable handheld to win out on price. You'd be right.

The Nintendo Switch costs £280 for the console alone, while physical Switch games will generally cost you between £40 and £60.

A New Nintendo 3DS XL console, meanwhile, will cost you £180, while the standard non-XL model (when you can find them in stock) is even less. What's more, the vast library of 3DS games ranges from around £15 to £35.



Conclusion

Nintendo swears that the Switch isn't a replacement for the 3DS, and we're sure the two will overlap for a while yet. But make no mistake - the Switch is all about Nintendo pooling its resources, so its handheld and console teams are all behind the new console.

Reports of new mainline Pokemon and Fire Emblem games for the new console would appear to confirm that Nintendo's own developers have indeed made the switch (CLICK!).

As such, the Nintendo Switch is the obvious choice for anyone looking to invest in a handheld that's going to be a going concern for the next five years or more. It's also a far more powerful, capable machine than the wheezy old 3DS, and enables you to play both console-quality and local multiplayer games on the go.

However, the 3DS has three notable things going for it. It's much more portable than the Switch, thanks to its smaller size and inherently robust clamshell design. It's also much cheaper than the Switch. And finally, it's got loads and loads of brilliant games available for it. Tough choice.
 

Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy 7 March 2017
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